COVINGTON — Paying it forward; that was the motivation and intent Eastside head boys soccer coach Champ Young wanted to express to his players heading into their first youth camp since 2016, who helped serve as counselors throughout four-day camp.
With roughly 60 campers ages 6 to 12 in attendance, Young and the Eagles program put their overall earnings on the backburner and traded it for the invaluable life lessons learned, both soccer related and not.
“We had a talk about it Monday when we got done about how much of an impact they have with the little kids,” Young said. “Perfect example, we had one of our little guys get smoked in the head with a ball and he was balling his eyes out. I had him for a good 10 minutes and sat him aside with two of my older boys. In five seconds, he was great. He was over there with the big boys and was good. Hopefully they’re starting to get it more and more that they’re seeing the bigger picture.”
Young, who just wrapped up year eight coaching the Eagles, didn’t hesitate to invite youth soccer programs in the Covington area to his team’s home game at Sharp Stadium this past season. On several occasions, Young’s varsity players and the local youth walked hand-in-hand during player introductions before standing alongside one another for the playing of the National Anthem.
Not only did it give Young a sense of what type of players he has been able to shape and mold, but it also gave him a sense of how many kids he could expect to see as this summer’s youth camp. “Recently, we’ve seen an uptick in kids coming to our games and we’ve done a really good job, our players especially, of reaching out to the kids,” Young said. “The little kids eat this stuff up, so we tried to reach out as much as we could throughout the year so that it would be like it is now.”
In order to get the record number of campers out to Eastside this week, Young said he reached out in several ways over the past few months.
“I think I know 60-70 percent of the kids that are here,” Young said. “Through either RYSA doing indoor or being a club coach up there and knowing little brothers and sisters. The YMCA, knowing kids that play with my little girls’ team or knowing kids that play in that league. Other teachers in the county that have kids and just want to get them worn out playing. Word of mouth more than anything else.”
From a talent standpoint, Young said he has been impressed with what he has seen so far this week.
“We have a U6 and U8 team that we put together and some of those kids are really, really good,” Young said. “It’s such a skillset that I even I don’t think I had as a little kid. They’re exposed to it so early. They get to see so much more. There’s kids out here with jersey’s on that can tell me more about players than I know. They’re nine years old and know more than I do.”
Even more importantly, Young said he’s seen a growth in all of his high schoolers helping out with the camp. With the older age groups separated from the younger, many interactions, from competing against the campers, to helping them in drills, had Young’s players soaking it all in.
“That’s the best part,” Young said. “Some of them will have buddies before it’s all said and done. The goal Monday and Tuesday was to make sure they knew everyone’s name and everyone that you’ve worked with. Hopefully by the end of it, they’ve got someone that they can see around town and get ice cream with.”
It’s all about paying it forward. These kids have put hours and hours of time, but now they get to pass it onto the next generation. For some, their careers are probably coming close to an end. Not everyone plays in college. This way, you develop a passion for the game on a different level. That’s what we’re trying to do.”